Note: I wrote the bulk of this post before the terrorizing events of August 11-12 took place. Perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise that the folks at MATTER and I discussed this post months ago. I couldn’t have foreseen how important it is to reclaim Charlottesville spaces and celebrate what it has to offer. Talking about the good things will never negate the violence and loss of life, but maybe it can unify us and remind us of the world we want to build. Thank you to everyone who prayed with me, checked up on me on social media, and wrote your own posts about Charlottesville. I can feel your love. Solidarity forever!
Charlottesville is really a vacation town and I’m just one of those awkward townies who calls it home.
This community at one point boasted more restaurants per capita than New York City; local wineries and breweries abound; Thomas Jefferson’s mountaintop estate is available for tours every day of the week; and you could spend a week visiting all the antique, thrift, and secondhand shops.
While it sounds great – and it is – it’s impossible to live like a tourist every day (unless you’re lucky enough to be retired). So I like to scheme up little adventures that we can take once or twice a month to keep things interesting without exhausting our bank accounts.
I partnered with MATTER for this post specifically because their motto is “Pants to see the world in.”
I like a good adventure as much as the next millennial, but I especially love when I can get away without boarding an air plane or renting an overpriced room at a questionable hotel. It’s a nice reminder that, sometimes, the good things are close to home, and that anyplace can feel like an escape if you take the time to tap its resources. Plus, if you’re cash strapped like I am, you have an excuse to splurge just a little bit on a good meal or an extra glass of wine without suffering an existential crisis when you get home and look at your bank account.
This is minimalism at its finest: enjoying the good things in life without living beyond your means.
So settle in, because my weekend in Charlottesville is jam packed…
Beers at Michael’s Bistro
A UVa grad student hangout, Michael’s is located in a warmly lit upstairs space on The Corner, the cobblestone strip of shops and restaurants across from the University. Lots of local beers on tap, seasonal egg rolls if you’re hungry, and board games to play if you’re up for it.
Dinner at Peter Chang’s
My all time favorite restaurant, Peter Chang’s was founded by the former chef of the Chinese ambassador. There are a few locations throughout Virginia and DC (and no, it’s not related to PF Chang). Peter Chang’s specializes in authentic Szechuan style dishes presented family style, and it’s great for large gatherings.
Early lunch at Bodo’s Bagels
Ask any Charlottesvillian for food recommendations and they’re sure to mention Bodo’s. Fresh, delicious bagels and bagel sandwiches that are amazingly cheap. I like their feta spread.
Hike at Humpback Rocks + Driving down the Blue Ridge Parkway
Charlottesville is only about 35-40 minutes away from Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive, but you can get similar overlook views free of charge on the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you’re up for some exercise, bring your sturdy shoes and hike up to Humpback Rocks (just make sure to bring plenty of water and your camera).
-or- Ciders at Bold Rock + Wine at Veritas
If Humpback Rocks doesn’t interest you, head over to the local cideries and wineries. Amazing mountain views and award winning alcoholic beverages: the perfect combination.
Dinner at Miso Sweet or Now and Zen
Head downtown for dinner and enjoy some ramen and a brown butter donut at Miso Sweet or a sushi feast at Now and Zen. If the weather’s nice, you can eat al fresco at Miso Sweet.
|Squinting on the Downtown Mall wearing MATTER’s Sideswept Dhoti|
Drinks at South Street Brewery
My favorite local brewery, South Street is conveniently located on the other side of Charlottesville pedestrian mall – the Downtown Mall – from Miso Sweet and Now and Zen, so you can walk over after dinner. I recommend Satan’s Pony, an easy-drinking amber ale.
Brunch at Cafe Caturra
Back to The Corner for brunch at Cafe Caturra. Make sure to ask about mimosa pitchers. I recommend the Crispy Cheese Panini with the Arugala Goat Cheese salad.
Shopping at Darling, Low Vintage, ReThreads, and Circa
Drive over to the Downtown Mall for some secondhand shopping at Darling Boutique and Low Vintage (if you want to check out some fair trade goods, make sure to stop in at Ten Thousand Villages and say hi to Sallie), then head to McIntire Plaza to check out ReThreads and furniture and home goods emporium, Circa.
Afternoon coffee at Java Java
End your visit with an organic, fair trade latte and Java Java’s famous honey bunches (buttery, sweet muffins with coconut).
This town can feel claustrophobic and cluttered with tourists at times, but I love living here. It’s full of natural beauty and all the good food and drinks you could want. Making this list reminded me how lucky I am.
So the next time you’re looking to see the world, consider starting right where you are.
|Memorial for Heather Heyer, killed on this site by a neo-Nazi|
I wrote about my experience in Charlottesville this weekend for Christianity Today.